ISTANBUL - President Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday defended Turkey's right to protect its borders after Turkish fighter jets shot down a warplane near the Syrian border, an incident he said Turkey had made every effort to avoid.
"Despite being warned 10 times in five minutes because it was coming towards our border, it insisted on continuing its violation. This plane was downed in an intervention by our F-16s," Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara, adding the actions were fully in line with Turkey's rules of engagement.
"The reason why worse incidents have not taken place in the past regarding Syria is the cool-headedness of Turkey. Nobody should doubt that we made our best efforts to avoid this latest incident. But everyone should respect the right of Turkey to defend its borders," he said.
Erdogan also said that Turkey, together with its allies, would soon realize a "humanitarian safe zone" between Syria's Jarablus and the Mediterranean coast.